kasan sweat

I was thinking about the beloved story of the Zen priest Kasan, who was asked to officiate at the funeral of a provincial lord. Because Kasan had never met lords or nobles before, when the ceremony started, he got nervous and began to sweat. After the ceremony, he gathered his pupils around him and confessed that he was not yet qualified to be their teacher because he was still all too aware of the differences between people, and could not keep the same composure in the world of power and fame that he could in his secluded temple. He then went to another master for instruction, and returned to his former pupils eight years later, enlightened. I am reminded of a story I heard about a writer who said that the best advice he ever got was to “not be in awe of anyone.” I try to keep this idea in my mind whenever I meet someone of a higher social status than me, or someone who is above me in the hierarchy of my workplace. The only people I am really in awe of are the great spiritual teachers of the past and present. I think of someone like John Daido Loori, Roshi, an American Zen Master who has for years been quietly teaching his students at the beautiful Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, NY. My advice to you, whenever you meet someone of higher social status than yourself, is to ask them to show you their original face before their parents were born. How they answer that question should give you an indication as to whether you should be in awe of them or not. Try it, and get back to me.

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